POSTSCRIPT / February 5, 1998 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Voters’ choice reduced to trapo, gago, berdugo

IF the presidential elections were to be held tomorrow, the runaway winner would be Vice President Joseph Estrada of the opposition. The rest of the field, including Speaker Jose de Venecia riding the Lakas mammoth machine, is trailing Estrada by a mile in the latest surveys.

As for the vice presidency, while Sen. Gloria Macapagal of Lakas leads the pack, there is still the possibility that Estrada may just pull his laggard teammate Sen. Edgardo Angara to cross the May 11 finish line with him to victory.

This assessment is based mainly on the poll surveys of the Social Weather Stations, the most reputable among the poll groups that have mushroomed with the onset of the election season.

But surveys, especially when carried and amplified by the media, have a way of conditioning people’s minds and creating a bandwagon effect that makes survey results self-fulfilling.

So if you’re into betting, place your money on Estrada.

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THE Church (in the Philippines, when we say Church we mean the Catholic Church) hierarchy said days ago that after assessing the presidential candidates, it came up with the sad conclusion that none of them measured up to its standards.

As an old Nora Aunor movie would say, “Tinimbang (sila) ngunit kulang.”

Some columns ago, we lamented that the voter has been reduced to choosing from among a trapo, a gago and a berdugo. We called attention to the apparent need for a box in the ballot for NOTA, or None Of The Above. The comment seems to have foreshadowed this recent verdict of the Catholic hierarchy.

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THE dismal picture has inspired the usual jokes (the escapist in the Filipino finds tentative relief in jokes). I heard this one yesterday in the coffeeshop:

  • If Joe de Venecia the trapo wins, “God save the Philippines.”
  • If Erap Estrada the gago wins: “Not even God can save the Philippines.”
  • If Fred Lim the berdugo wins, “Not even God is safe in the Philippines.”

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REMEMBER the many presidential candidates or aspirants who claim to have been summoned or anointed by God to run?

Well, here’s one Mario Nebrida Legaspi, 41, from Northern Samar, who beats them all. In his certificate of candidacy filed with the Commission on Elections, Mario claims he is God Himself, more specifically the father of Jesus Christ.

When the Comelec clerk saw the entry in his form, she hurriedly made the sign of the cross, looked at the benign, longhaired candidate, and nearly broke into tears suppressing laughter.

Mario, a.k.a. God the Father, is one of the 34 “obscure” candidates littering the landscape. He proposes to save not only this country but also the entire world (that includes you guys in the States). How?

Noah-like, Mario would tuck away everybody in a huge structure made of stainless steel. Now, if everybody would just stop shoving and quietly fall in the line to the right….

* * *

FOR perspective, here are some facts and figures on the May elections.

  • There are at least 17,000 posts at stake from the presidency down to the last councilor in your hometown.
  • The mob of candidates jostling for those 17,000 posts numbers some 100,000.
  • In a population of some 70 million, there are allegedly 40 million registered voters. We are not referring only to qualified voters (18 years and above), but to those who had bothered to register after the old lists were deemed too tainted to use.
  • There are about 230,000 poll precincts scattered over 1,600 cities and towns, 78 provinces, 204 congressional districts and more than 7,000 islands.
  • In the last elections in 1995, it took six weeks to count the votes and declare the winners.
  • Any official who runs must resign, except if he is seeking reelection or the presidency or the vice presidency. So, senators running for president or vice president will gather contributions running into the millions, spend a fraction thereof and pocket the rest, and walk back to his/her Senate seat if he/she loses (but see below).
  • Finally, in the Philippines, nobody loses an election. He is cheated.

* * *

MEANWHILE, the peso is no longer fluctuating wildly, settling at around P41 to the US dollar. The stock market seems to be bouncing back. Some depositors who had pulled out their savings from the banks had gone back cautiously.

President Ramos is still peddling the myth that we are in fine shape. He has to, if he is not to jeopardize the chances of his anointed candidates.

Out in the streets, however, are all the informal indicators of the bad times: Old clothes and shoes being peddled on sidewalks, cigarettes being sold by the stick, snatchers getting bolder (more desperate), more children begging in the streets, more people gambling and praying.

While thousands are losing their jobs in foundering businesses, prices even of prime goods have soared. San Miguel will raise the price of its beer by an average of 9 percent on Feb. 10. Right now, a bottle of pale pilsen is P10 in the corner sari-sari store, P15 at the National Press Club bar, and P100+ at the Manila Hotel.

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